Monday, November 14, 2005

Does anyone have some Windex?

For the first time since 1972, the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops will largely be closed to the public and the media. Why the bishops have chosen now, with the U.S. church still dealing with the spiritual, institutional, and financial costs of clergy sex abuse, is completely beyond me, especially in light of the increasing and quite reasonable demands for greater transparency coming from every corner of the church.

But a better question is why any church meeting, beyond those that truly require confidentiality, should be closed to the people of God. No media? Fine, but let us never forget that any authority in the church is held in relation to the whole Body of Christ. Though God's people no longer choose their own bishops, those bishops still have as their constituency the baptized they serve. And those people have every reason to expect transparency from their leaders, including what they do or don't advocate among the other bishops of this country. Closed-door meetings are truly a step backward.

But should we not go a bit further and ask why the pope should be elected in a secret conclave. Freedom from influence is often cited as the reason for secrecy, but it's hard to wonder if freedom from accountability isn't another, more pressing reason for secrecy.

Some may argue that the Spirit is freer to move without "outside" influences. But, after all, influence from the baptized isn't from the "outside" but from the church's heart.

Maybe the better question is why the bishops are meeting without the rest of God's people--lay women and men, religious, pastors, and the rest--without whom there is no church.


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